In the state of California, the typical sentence for first-degree rape is 3 to 8 years in state prison. In cases of aggravated assault this sentence could be much longer. Since this is the penalty of the law in the state of California it seems quite weird that a 19-year-old male convicted on three felony accounts of sexual assault—assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated or unconscious person, penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object—has been released after only 3 months of his given 6 month sentence. Not to mention that he only faces 3 years of probation upon his return.
Besides the fact that California Judge Aaron Persky has allowed a rapist to be free on the streets of Ohio— Brock Turner’s hometown—he has also fed into modern day rape culture. Rape culture is a term designed to show the ways in which society blames victims of sexual assault and normalizes male sexual violence. In this case Judge Persky has clearly normalized male sexual violence by allowing a convicted rapist free from punishment after only 3 months in prison and 3 years of probation.
Not to mention, during the trial Turner clearly stated that it was his level of intoxication and party culture in college that lead him to sexual assault an unconscious woman behind a dumpster; another prime example of rape culture—normalizing male sexual violence by blaming it on the use of alcohol and a party setting.
Considering that this case has garnered national attention for a year now, it is sickening that the verdict lies partially in favor of the perpetrator. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, it has set the bar very low for other tried cases of rape around the country. Moreover, the release of Turner after only 3 months served will definitely discourage other victims from reporting their assaults out of fear of their case not being taken seriously.
Victims of sexual assault face serious challenges emotionally and physically throughout the rest of their life. From chronic depression and flashbacks to an inability to be intimate, the victim’s life is clearly negatively affected. In terms of retribution, when a victim files charges—on any matter—it should be assumed that the punishment for the perpetrator would fit the crime. In every other type of crime this is the case, except for rape. In cases of first-degree murder, perpetrators could face up to a life’s sentences in prison. For cases of grand theft—even misdemeanors—perpetrators can face anywhere from a year to a life’s sentence in prison. So why isn’t the punishment for rape taken more seriously? This all goes back to rape culture.
We have set the bar so low inside the courtroom that only 7 out of 344 reported cases nationwide will lead to a felony conviction and only 6 out of these 7 perpetrators will be incarcerated. Mind you, these numbers are out of every 1,000 rapes. In total, 994 perpetrators out of every 1,000 will walk free. Whether this is because of victims not reporting their rape or judges such as Judge Persky sympathizing with rapists, these numbers are pathetically low for a country that prides itself on “liberty and justice for all.”It’s time that we take control of our justice system and the way in which we treat victims of sexual assault within our courts. This is the 21st century, wake up America! Male sexual violence SHOULD NOT be normalized and victims SHOULD NOT be blamed for their assaults. Brock Turner is just one of many rapists (YES HE IS A RAPIST, IT’S TIME TO CALL IT WHAT IT IS) who is simply let off the hook each year. As a victim of sexual assault and a person who believes in our country’s justice system I demand to see a change, and you should too.